Interview Questions in IAS

[vc_section][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]UPSC Syllabus 2023 is released by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) on its official website. UPSC Syllabus is divided into preliminary and main examinations. UPSC conducts the 3 stage exam for civil services recruitment, which are Prelims, Mains and Interviews. UPSC Preliminary test is an objective type exam to shortlist candidates for Mains. The UPSC Mains examination consists of 9 detailed descriptive examinations. UPSC syllabus key segments:

  • Preliminary Stage – GS Paper and CSAT
  • Mains Stage – 9 Theory Papers (GS Papers I-IV, Language Papers, Essay & Optional Paper)
  • Personality Test – Interview
Paper Subject Marks
Paper-I Essay (can be written in the medium of the candidate’s choice) 250
Paper-II General Studies – I (Indian Heritage & Culture, History & Geography of the World & Society) 250
Paper-III General Studies – II (Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice & International Relations) 250
Paper-IV General Studies – III (Technology, Economic Development, Biodiversity, Security & Disaster Management) 250
Paper-V General Studies – IV (Ethics, Integrity & Aptitude) 250
Paper-VI Optional Subject – Paper I 250
Paper-VII Optional Subject – Paper II 250
Sub Total (Written Test) 1750
Personality Test                                       275
Grand Total 2025

1. UPSC IAS Interview Process

The questions in the IAS Interview are more like a discussion between the UPSC board and the aspirant. Generally, an IAS interview lasts for about 20 minutes and aspirants face interview questions that cover a broad range of topics. Facing the UPSC IAS interview panel is a daunting task but armed with facts and information, a candidate with confidence and appropriate soft skills can surely ace the interview.

Aspirants can read below the first-hand account of the UPSC IAS Interview experience:

  • Candidates usually reach the venue with some time in hand, and the security in front of UPSC organizes them in a queue and does the preliminary verification (interview call letter and cross-checking the candidate’s name on their list). It is recommended to carry some government-issued identification.
  • After the security ushers the candidates inside the hallowed gates of the UPSC; they are required to check in their bags and mobile phones. The candidates are then made to sit in an entrance hall where the actual verification of documents (education documents, caste certificates) takes place. Usually, it is a smooth process and the staff is polite and ready to help. There are also newspapers along with tea/water and biscuits for the candidates. Candidates are also handed out a questionnaire to fill in (basic background info for UPSC’s research and analysis purposes).
  • Once the documents are submitted, the candidates are given the number of the panel and the sequence number of the order in which they will appear before the panel. For e.g. a candidate might be told he/she has to appear before panel number 5, and for that panel, he/she will be going in as the 3rd individual for that session. They don’t disclose the name of the panel chairperson at that time and it is pointless to ask that.
  • The somewhat visibly nervous candidates are then escorted to a large circular hall in the centre of the building complex. Here, the candidates are grouped and seated based on their panel number (all the people scheduled to appear before panel number 5 will sit in a group and so on). Also, this is where a few staff members will hand out forms for travel reimbursement for out-of-town candidates (they refund for train travel in 2nd class).
  • In one session, a panel takes the interview of 5-6 aspirants. So, initially, the hall is quite full (5-6 panels in all, hence 30-35 odd candidates sitting and waiting). Usually, an interview lasts for about 20 minutes, although there is no time limit as such and people have recounted experiences of being part of even a 40-minute interview.
  • One by one, names are called and candidates make their way to their respective panels (after another security check where one has to leave any remaining documents/papers/pen). Usually, a staff member escorts one from here to the room of the panel chairperson.
  • So, candidates usually reach the venue around 8:45 AM for the forenoon session. After the formalities, the first candidate to appear before the panel will be called around 10:15 AM. Depending on one’s sequence number, one can estimate the waiting period. Hence, it is essential that you don’t arrive on an empty stomach or sleep-deprived.
  • Tackling the actual UPSC interview is a completely different challenge. It’s a unique experience for everyone, even for experienced candidates but there are some essential things that candidates need to inculcate before they face the panel.
  • Broadly speaking, a polite, humble candidate who is calm and confident has the best chance to score high marks irrespective of the panel chairperson, the medium of the interview and the number of questions answered.

2. IAS Interview Questions

The UPSC interview questions test the candidates’ mental acuity, general awareness, social etiquette, and overall personality. The questions in the IAS interview are not meant to solely ascertain the theoretical knowledge so instead of mugging up, candidates should focus on their soft skills.

The IAS interview questions faced by Civil Service aspirants follow a similar pattern. Let’s look at a few of the broad categories of questions in the IAS interview and how candidates can prepare for them.

2.1. IAS interview question on Introduction

These are general questions from your Detailed Application Form (DAF) and can revolve around the meaning of your name, your qualification, your professional background, why you are interested in Civil Services, etc. The panel can also ask about your hobbies and interests. The general thumb rule to prepare these types of questions is self-reflection! Do not try and put up a false image of yourself as that might backfire. Since these questions are extremely generic, prepare them in advance.

Some UPSC Interviews that can be asked from this section are:

  • Tell us briefly about yourself.
  • Tell us about your hometown.
  • What is the meaning of your name (first name/ surname)
  • Tell us about your family

To answers questions related to self-introduction in the IAS interview, which are open-ended and straightforward, aspirants should prepare 30-40 second coherent responses. These questions are merely setting a baseline i.e. the eminent UPSC board will use the information you give to ask follow-up questions.

2.2. IAS interview questions on Education

  • Which subjects did you study during school/graduation and do you think they are relevant to life in administration?
  • Which subject was your favourite/least favourite?
  • Why did you choose ‘xyz’ college/school?
  • What kind of projects did you do during school/graduation/PG?
  • Would you call yourself an average student? Why?

The basic educational qualification for the UPSC CSE exam is graduation. The questions in the IAS interview may be oriented towards your graduation subject or the latest trends in the same. However, if you don’t know the answer to a particular question then trying to bluff your way out is not advised. It’s better to be humble and truthful.

2.3. IAS Interview questions on Current Affairs

Now, as an aspiring civil servant, you must know the whereabouts of what’s happening in the news! And you should have a balanced view about that. It is important to keep your answer balanced. Be as neutral and as diplomatic as possible while answering these questions. Avoid taking sides and be politically correct.

Some UPSC Interview that can be asked from this section are:

  • What are today’s headlines?
  • Few important issues in news about India/your state/your hometown in the last few months

Reading newspapers and following the daily news is important from the UPSC IAS Interview perspective as well. The IAS interview questions can refer to the latest news topics. Try to avoid giving one-dimensional opinion/information unless the question is relatively straightforward. (for e.g., What does the term ‘Petrodollars’ mean?)

Prepare your current affairs (

2.4. IAS interview questions on Work profile

  • What were your roles and responsibilities at your job?
  • Why do you want to become an IAS/IPS/IFS officer?

Be prepared to answer questions about any gaps in your work history and how your previous experience is going to help in your career as an administrator.

2.5. IAS interview questions on Optional Subject

  • Why did you choose ‘xyz’ optional?
  • Why didn’t you pick your graduation subject as your optional?

Also, you might face some questions in IAS interview related to topics/theory/contemporary issues based on your optional subject.

2.6. IAS interview questions on Hobbies

Here, the nature of questions varies depending on the hobbies you have listed in your DAF. For those who have listed sports as a hobby, the Panel has asked questions on famous sports persons or/and latest results. A few candidates have also been asked to sing during the interview process.

2.7. IAS interview questions on Situation

Situation-based questions can get tricky and it is where the panel assesses you the most. Hence, it is important to show your crisis-management skills while at the same time being positive. Prepare a generic line of thought before the interview as it will help you while answering these UPSC interview questions.

Some UPSC Interview Questions that can be asked from this section are:

  • If you’re posted as a DC in some district and a riot happens, what will you do?
  • Questions pertaining to the job role of choice of your service is asked.

2.8. IAS interview miscellaneous questions

Q1: Can you name three consecutive days without using the actual days?

How to answer: I can bet most people fail to answer this question asked in an IAS interview. Well, it is usually complicated if you are not an out-of-the-box thinker or are generally new to such types of questions. You can slowly adapt to the level of such questions with practice.

The answer to this question will be Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.

Q2: A woman has nine children. Out of which half are boys. How is it possible?

How to answer: One has to use his common sense and a tad bit of analytical thinking while answering such questions asked in an IAS interview. If you go through the question sincerely, you\’ll definitely get your answer. The answer is right there, hidden in the question itself.

A woman has nine children. This makes the total number of members equal to 10. Out of which 5 are boys, and the other 5 are girls (woman and rest of the four children).

Q3: A person was pushed out of an airplane without any parachute. He survived. How’s that possible?

How to answer: The sole purpose of asking such questions and answer in an IAS interview is to check the presence of mind of a candidate.

The answer to this question will be: The airplane was on the runway or parked in the hangar.

Q4: The peacock is a bird that doesn’t lay eggs. How do they get baby peacocks?

How to answer: Here is another tricky IAS interview question right in front of you. The interviewer asks such a question to test your common sense and clarity of thoughts. Such tricky questions are quite easy to answer. Only you have to use your common sense to answer these types of questions.

The answer to this question will be: It is the peahen who lays eggs, not the peacock.

Q5: A cat had three kittens: January, March, and May. What was their mother’s name?

How to answer: Here is another tricky question from the pool of questions asked in an IAS interview. Such questions are all about applying common sense and paying attention to the asked question. Everything is given right there in the question itself. You just have to have that right eye to find out the answer.

The answer to this question will be: It is clearly stated that ‘What’ was the name of their mother.

Q6: There are these twin brothers who were born in May, but their birthday is in June. How is that possible?

How to answer: It is one of those frequently asked trickiest questions of all time. It takes a good presence of mind to answer these types of questions asked in an IAS interview. Such an approach can only be developed by lots of practice or by taking all those IAS mock interviews before an actual IAS interview.

The answer to this question will be: May is the name of the birthplace where the babies were born.

Q7: How can a person live up to 8 days without sleep?

How to answer: Let’s find out how to answer such tricky questions asked in an IAS interview. It all takes a good presence of mind along with some out-of-the-box thinking to answer such questions. You can easily find out the answer by paying sincere attention to all the tricky questions asked by the interviewing panel.

The answer to this question will be: By sleeping at night.

Q8: What does half an apple look like?

How to answer: Most of the candidates get confused while answering such tricky questions asked in an IAS interview. This one takes the right attention and a good presence of mind to answer this question.

The answer to this question will be: Exactly like the other half of the apple.

Q9: Suppose I’ve ordered coffee for the candidate. Coffee arrived on time and was kept before the candidate. What is before you?

How to answer: Here is another trickiest question from the pool of questions asked in an IAS interview. Let’s see how we can answer this one.

The answer to this question will be Alphabet \’T\’. Because the alphabet \’T\’ comes before the alphabet \’U\’.

Q10: If you had 2 plums and 3 pears in one hand and 3 plums and 2 pears in the other hand, what would you have?

How to answer: Let’s try to answer this tricky question asked in an IAS interview in a similar fashion. Your answer can make you stand out from the rest of the crowd as most of the candidates will answer this one something like five plums and five pears.

The tricky answer to this question will be: Very big hands!

3. IAS Interview Preparation Strategy

Keep following current affairs

  • Prepare a list of possible questions that can be asked based on your DAF
  • Practice answering questions in front of a mirror
  • If possible, record yourself as you answer questions during the practice session
  • Brush up your knowledge on your graduation subject

The purpose of the questions in the IAS interview is to check a candidate’s suitability to live in administration. It is not at all mandatory that one has to answer all the questions to get good marks in the UPSC Personality Test. Often, it is not about whether you know the precise answer to the question but how you actually come across as an individual when put under some pressure.

4. Few key points to avoid in an IAS interview

  • Don’t stress out on the day before the Interview. Better be rested and calm.
  • Don’t try to bluff your way out. The IAS interview is unlike any other interview you have encountered before, so don’t try bluffing strategies.
  • Don’t be concerned about theoretical questions. It is more about how you approach any question which is being asked to you.
  • Don’t argue with the panel members. It is a discussion but candidates should maintain decorum at all times.


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